Summer's coming, and many parents send their kids to summer camps. I recently interviewed Robert Hanson of Columbia Gorge Teen Camps, who has a doctorate in recreation, published articles, and lots of camp experience, so you know he knows a thing or two about summer camps! I asked him about things parents should consider when choosing a summer camp.
1) What are some things parents need to consider when choosing a summer camp? There are lots of good camps, but a camp that's right for one teen may very well not be for another. Most importantly, the camp should be fun for the teen. If he or she isn't enjoying it, chances are they won't benefit much from the experience. A good camp should be educational in the broadest sense. What new experiences and values will the camper likely return home with. Has he or she learned new skills and appreciations which will last a life-time? Finally, the camp should have a great staff. Staff members should love working with campers and possess all of the requisite skills the position calls for. I haven't mentioned safety, which is upper-most in most parent's minds. Camps tend to be safer than the local neighborhood or school. A camp that doesn't have high safety standards will probably not last more than one year.
2) At what age should kids become involved in making the summer camp choice? I think all children should be involved in the decision of which camp to attend. This becomes more important as the child reaches their teen years. "Sending" a teen to a camp which the teen doesn't want to attend, is a recipe for disaster.
3) What are some tips for parents who may be sending their child to a faraway camp? Relax and don't worry. The situation is pretty much out of your hands. Going away to camp is an important aspect of your child's growing up to become an independent person. Send letters and maybe a "care" package, but don't try to manage the child's experience from your home.
4) What are the advantages of a unique camp located farther away from a child's home? The important thing is that the camp is "right" for the child...not whether it is 3,000 miles away or in the next county.